Merchant of Death
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Somalia's Collapse (Again)
Perhaps no venue outside the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region is a more important venue for radical Islamists than Somalia. Somalia is viewed as an historic battleground where the United States and United Nations were defeated once, and where al Qaeda and like-minded groups can build the beginning of the caliphate, that will rule the world according to Sharia law.

Now, it seems the jihadists have made an improbable comeback are again on the verge of taking power. How this has come to pass is a study in much of what is wrong with how counter-terrorism efforts are carried out in stateless areas.

As the Associated Press reports,the internationally recognized Transitional government, having been reinstalled in Mogadishu by the Ethiopians, acting at the behest of the United States and others less than two years ago, has again lost most of the national territory to the Islamists. This includes the major ports.

(The importance of these ports is shown by the Somali pirates, who have just hijacked a Saudi oil tanker with 2 million barrels of oil on board, and need to dock.)

Why? Because the Transitional government has been so bogged down with internal infighting over scarce resources and old, petty rivalries, that they did not bother to engage in the war. The Ethiopians are viewed as an occupying force, and the international community again completely dropped the ball on following through.

Fundamentally, the government, after years of exile and representing no one, failed to deliver the minimum necessary to generate any popular support, despite knowing what that Islamists represent. The international community could not or would not hold them accountable for the squandered aid and opportunities. Now the same group has audacity to ask for MORE help.

"You know what the situation is. Because of the endless disputes in government, the opposition groups have taken most of the country, including Elasha, which is 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the capital," (Transitional government president) Yusuf said in comments that received wide coverage on radio stations in Somalia.

Yusuf said his government only had control of the capital and the southwestern town of Baidoa, which is the seat of Parliament.

"Imagine how the country's future will be if al-Shabab takes (control of Somalia). It is really at risk," the president said, referring to one of the Islamic groups that has recently made significant territorial gains.

The spineless leaders can afford to engage in endless disputes because they can all move to Kenya again when the Islamists take over. But of Somalis are trapped in terrible position of being nominally ruled by a corrupt and incompetent government that does nothing for them, and a radical Islamist group that has already shown it can impose law and order and restore some semblance of safety-at a very high price.

When the Islamists took control last time, they cleaned up the capital, reopened the airport after 10 years and brought an end to the chaos on the roads. They also established sharia law, imposed curfews, beat women, carried out stoning and generally followed the lead of the Taliban in Afghanistan in trying to move the nation back to the 15th century.

Now, the Islamists are also divided into factions. One faction this weekend "publicly whipped 32 traditional dancers in the southern town of Balad because they said it is "Un-Islamic" for men and women to dance together." A taste of things to come.

If al Shabab, a youth militia linked to al Qaeda and adherents to radical Sunni-Wahhabist theology, take control, these forces will again have a place to train, study and operate from.

It is unlikely the United States and its allies will let that happen. The result will be chaos and suffering for the Somali people.

The only long-term solution is to have a government that people are willing to defend and fight for. The current transitional government is clearly not that. They are happy to squabble over the composition of the cabinet for months on end (largely from outside Somalia, in the comfort of hotels in Kenya) while their country burned.

Somalia is not unique, and other areas of the world, particularly in Africa (see the DRC and Zimbabwe now) will become attractive targets for Islamists, either as staging areas or areas to exploit for financial and training purposes. If we can't get Somalia right, we won't get these right either.

The Future is Now: Somalia in the New World Order
A Treasury Designation and a Curious Omission
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